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The Conflict of Legal Norms and Social Norms



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    The Conflict of Legal norms and social norms. Introduction Since, the evolution of society took place and man decided to form a state regulating its citizens with a set of framed laws there has always been a flux between social and legal norms. Legal norms have been formed on the basis of demands and needs of the society. They are formed in a way as to regulate the people, protecting their interest under laws which are called rights so as to ensure that society is proceeding towards development track.

    Whereas, social norms are the morals or principals which are a part of society since time memorial. Legal term given for such norms is customs. People are well verse with these customs and have no difficulty whatsoever in understanding them and their impacts. The conflict arises when there is flux between social and legal norms that is customs and laws or morals and principals respectively on deciding upon a particular matter. This particular issue will be discussed in detail in this paper and also their impact on social issues such as women atrocities in India as a case study.

    Society Evolution Society evolution can be defined as the process by which structural reorganization is affected through time, eventually producing a form or structure which is qualitatively different from the ancestral form. When humans began to come together and form a society there was a lot of freedom given to society when freedom was excess there was a threat of society getting disturbed and going to a state which cannot be managed. Hence people decided to give up certain of their rights in order to have security, this was termed as state of nature.

    The concept of state of nature was posited by the 17th century English philosopher Thomas Hobbes in Leviathan. Hobbes wrote that “during the time men live without a common power to keep them all in awe, they are in that condition which is called war; and such a war as is of every man against every man” [1]. In this state any person has a natural right to the liberty to do anything he wills to preserve his own life, and life is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short”. Hobbes’ view of the state of nature helped to serve as a basis for theories of international realism.

    Within the state of nature there is no injustice, since there is no law, excepting certain natural precepts, the first of which is “that every man ought to endeavor peace, as far as he has hope of obtaining it” (Leviathan, ch. XIV); and the second is “that a man be willing, when others are so too, as far forth as for peace and defense of himself he shall think it necessary, to lay down this right to all things; and be contented with so much liberty against other men as he would allow other men against himself”. [2]

    According to John Locke in the state of nature all men are free “to order their actions, and dispose of their possessions and persons, as they think fit, within the bounds of the law of nature. ” Formation of Laws Laws can be formed through various ways. Laws can either be created by a set of body or evolved from time to time or they can also evolve from the court of law which would be according to the demands of society. Laws can be formed through various ways:- A legislature is a kind of deliberative assembly with the power to pass, amend, and repeal laws.

    The law created by a legislature is called legislation or statutory law. In addition to enacting laws, legislatures usually have exclusive authority to raise or lower taxes and adopt the budget and other money bills. Legislatures are known by many names, the most common being parliament and congress, although these terms also have more specific meanings. In common law legal systems, a precedent or authority is a principle or rule established in a legal case that a court or other judicial body may apply when deciding subsequent cases with similar issues or facts.

    Black’s Law Dictionary defines “precedent” as a “rule of law established for the first time by a court for a particular type of case and thereafter referred to in deciding similar cases. ” Custom in law is the established pattern of behavior that can be objectively verified within a particular social setting. A claim can be carried out in defense of “what has always been done and accepted by law. ” Custom are the norms practiced in society that have became a part of society and are recognized by law. Philosophical School of Thought in Law.

    Law is affected by philosophy too. Formation of any law depends on the kind on philosophical background a country has. Law as a result varies from school to school, the effect of this philosophical schools also varies the effect of law is also different in different nation following different philosophical school of thought. There are various philosophical school of thought in laws, some of which are as follows:- Natural law, or the law of nature (Latin: lex naturalis), is any system of law which is purportedly determined by nature, and thus universal.

    Classically, natural law refers to the use of reason to analyze human nature and deduce binding rules of moral behavior. Natural school of thought believes that law is guided by morals and is derived from same. Positive law (lat. ius positum) is the term generally used to describe man-made laws which bestow specific privileges upon, or remove them from, an individual or group. These laws are manmade and made by a statutory authority or body formed to make laws according to needs and demands of the society.

    Realist School of Law is that school of Jurisprudence under which law is characterized as an autonomous system of rules and principles that courts can logically apply in an objective fashion to reach a determinate and apolitical judicial decision. Realism believes that law is best derived from the court of law i. e. , they believe in precedent as a basic feature of any law making. Conflict of social and legal norms. Social norms are the code of conduct practiced by society from a long time.

    These norms become a part of the society and it is very difficult to separate these from the society, but sometimes these norms with change in time need to be altered or removed. Any conduct which might be a part of society in past but at present its practice will be unjust and depicts the society or state to be backwards or discriminating should be declared void. For e. x “Sati Pratha” was very common in ancient in India, but with change in time it became necessary to declare this practice illegal, which pictured that state is developing and is not discriminating.

    Similarly conducts like child marriage, killing new born daughter have also been declared by illegal by the Indian state. It shows that state is indiscriminating and is just in its approach. The debate between culture and law is age old. Often the thinkers have came up with the idea that law should be based on morals which are deem fit by society, whereas some of thinkers have came up with the idea that law should be what it is, there should be no alteration in it and society should modify accordingly. The later school of thought believes that what law is framed by the legislature is in the best interest of people and should be followed.

    This debate was highlighted with during the Second World War period. The Nazi laws in Germany were quite discriminating against Jews; it was argued that what Hitler did was best for the state at that point of time, because Germany was in a very bad situation after treaty of Versailles by the positive school of thought. Although natural school of thought was of the view that the laws framed were against the morals. This debate was known as Hart-Fuller debate. It was one of the legendary arguments ever where H. L. A Hart was of the view that law should be what it is and L. Fuller believed that law should be what it ought to be.

    Hart gave importance to legislature whereas Fuller gave importance to morals. The debate was primarily based on the nature of laws framed and their effect on society. The debate between social and legal norms still continue to exist where the question is what should be given more importance, law framed by legislature or the morals and customs existing in society. Social and legal norms and the status of women. Women are described in ancient Indian texts as weaker than men. Lacking in physical and, more importantly, spiritual strength, they ‘spoil’ men and deter them from more spiritual concerns.

    They were incapable of moksa, cannot own property and can be sold. A man of higher varna was theoretically lawful in taking any woman he wished. All societies are riddled with inequalities and the customs of ancient India present themselves as models of in-egalitarian hierarchies, both by defining social classes and oppressing women. Male violence against women is a worldwide phenomenon. Although not every woman has experienced it, and many expect not , fear of violence is important factor in the lives of most women. It determines what they do, when they do it, where they do it, and with whom.

    Fear of violence is a cause of women’s lack of participation in activities beyond the home, as well as inside it. Within the home, women and girls are subjected to physical and sexual abuse as punishment or as culturally justified assaults. These acts shape their attitude to life, and their expectations of themselves There are various forms of crime against women. Sometimes, it begins before their birth, sometimes in the adulthood and other phrases of life. In the Indian society, the position of women is always perceived in relation to man, from birth onwards and at every stage of life, she is dependent on him.

    This perception has given birth to various social customs and practices. One important manifestation of these customs and practices has been that of Sati. It is seen as a pinnacle of achievement for woman. This custom of self-immolation of the widow on her husband’s pyre was an age-old practice in some parts of the country, which received deification. The popular belief ran that the goddess enters into the body of the woman who resolves to become a sati. The practice of sati has been abolished by law with the nitiative of Raja Ram Mohan Roy in early decades of nineteenth century. However, there has been a significant revival of the practice of sati in the last few decades. Indeed, Rajasthan has been the focal point for this practice in recent years. Traditionally, Rajput women committed Johar, by jumping in a well of fire to save themselves from dishonor as captives of the victorious enemy forces. The famous case of Rup Kanwar in 1987 highlights how millions of Indians gathered to pay their obeisance to “Sati Mata”-in other words to watch the “Tamasha”(spectacle).

    Since its independence in 1947, India has witnessed about forty cases of Sati with twenty eight occurrence in the state of Rajasthan alone (Oldeburg1992: 191) [3]. Violence against women both inside and outside of their home has been a crucial issue in the contemporary Indian society. Women in India constitute near about half of population and most of them are grinding under the socio-cultural and religious structures. One gender has been controlling the space of India’s social economic, political and religious fabric since time immemorial.

    The condition of widows is one of the most neglected social issues in India. Because of widowhood the quality of life is lowered for many Indian women. Three percent of all Indian women are widows and on an average, mortality rate is 86 percent higher among elderly widows in comparison to married women of the same age group. Various studies indicate that (i) legal rights of widows are violated, (ii) they suffer forceful social isolation (iii) they have limited freedom to marry (iv) restrictive employment opportunities for widows, (v) most widows get little economic support from their family or from the community.

    It is common to read news about violation or wrongs committed on women every day. Our orthodox society is so much prejudiced by age-old habits and customs that a violated woman, whether she is forced or helpless, has no place in the society. Another danger in India is that, Indian law does not differentiate between major and minor rape. From a research conducted it was concluded that in every ten-rape case, six are of minor girls. In every seven minutes a crime is committed against women in India. Every 26 minutes a woman is molested. Every 34 minutes a rape takes place.

    Every 42 minutes a sexual harassment incident occurs. Every 43 minutes a woman is kidnapped. And every 93 minutes a woman is burnt to death over dowry. One-quarter of the reported rapes involve girls under the age of 16 but the vast majority are never reported at all. Although the penalty is severe, convictions are rare. Ages have come and gone and eras will come and go, but the plight of women is not likely to change. Time has helplessly watched excesses done on women in the form of discrimination, oppression, exploitation, degradation, aggression, humiliation, you name it and women have suffered it.

    History is witness to the suffering of women since the inception of civilization. Cleopatra (69-30 BC), the queen of Egypt, way back in the first century BC, was driven out of Egypt, exploited by great Caesar (with whose support, she won back her throne, and to whom she bore a son), consort of Anthony, married to her own, much younger sibling Ptolemy XIII (according to the tradition of the times), finally, fearing humiliation in Octavian’s triumph in Rome, took her life.

    Helen, the daughter of Zeus and Leda, and wife of Melenaus of Sparta, was abducted by Trojan prince, Paris in Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, which led to ten year long siege and finally sacking of Troy, that led to killing of thousands of Trojans and Spartans. The imprisonment and repeated rape of women in fascistic Germany by Hitler and his army, was “justified” under the pretext of producing a superior race, and the “Comfort women of Japan”, during the second world war, kept quiet for 50 long years-till they were old and weak-before they could muster enough courage and public support to raise their voice and speak about tortures they underwent.

    Back home, in India, the ten thousand odd Widows of Vrindavan , marginalized and ostracized by society, live in institutionalized hell, being exploited by politician-pimp nexus, just because of heinous practices of a society where widow-remarriage is taboo, and where a widow is supposed to be a “bad omen” for any unmarried or a married, woman. The Devdasi system still persists in south Indian temples. If you take the country road from Dharwad, Karnataka you will reach the small temple village of Saundatti.

    It is in this village that the devdasi tradition, one of the most criticized forms of prostitution in India, is still practiced in which a young unmarried girl is “married to the temple”- “given away” in matrimony to God! She “serves” the priests and inmates of the temple, and Zamindars and other men of money and power in the town and the village. The proponents of this “service” provided by the Devdasis promote it as “service of God”. A devdasi is dedicated to this service of the temple Deity for life, without any possibility of escape if she desires, because society refuses to accept her.

    Despite the governmental ban, initiated in the 1980s, hundreds of girls are secretly dedicated to Goddess Yellamma every year. The devdasi system is still flourishing in parts of India, especially southern India”[4]. The term “Dowry-Death” is unique to India and nowhere else in the world is this custom so deeply engrained in social fabric of society and widely prevalent among all sections of society as it is in India. In order to pay the groom’s family a dowry at time of marriage, the bride’s family often gets heavily burdened in financial debt.

    Yet most Indians fail to question this strange custom. It is perhaps a consequence of this custom that preference of a male child is common among Indians and people will go to any length to see that a baby boy is born, or to put it simply, that a baby girl is prevented from being born. With the introduction of the ultra-sonography technology, task of aborting female fetuses is so much simpler although legally it is banned through a law enacted in 1994. According to a report in 2001 , to every one thousand boys born there are only 992 girls born in India, as against the expected umber of 1000. Haryana and Punjab have even lower ratio of girls to boys – 793 girls to 1000 boys [5]. A total of 10 million girls foetuses have been aborted, according to a study report recently, in the last twenty years, after the introduction of ultrasound technique in India [6]. Nearly 500,000 female foetuses are lost to selective abortion in India: “Of the 15 million illegal abortions carried out the in the world in 1997, India accounted for four million, 90% of which were intended to eliminate the girl child” [7].

    In contrast, according to a United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) report, in most countries there are approximately 105 female births for every 100 males [8] whereas up to 50 million girls and women are missing from India’ s population as a result of systematic gender discrimination in India. Rape, a most despicable crime against women, is so rampant that every one hour a woman is raped in India[7], and if all unreported cases are taken into account it may be a matter of seconds or minutes when woman gets raped. In Delhi, which has become the “Rape-Capital of India”, in 2005, on an average one rape was committed a day.

    The rape of a South African model just before New Year’s Eve, and a French woman made Delhi internationally notorious. Girls are being sold by their parents, for money, in Hyderabad, to old Arab Sheikhs, and from other states like Bihar, Bengal and even Bangladesh, to land owners of Punjab, Haryana, Weastern UP and Rajasthan[8]. An investigation by Deccan Chronicle revealed around 3,000 Hydrabadi Muslim girls were sold by their poor parents to rich old Saudi men and a large majority of these women end up working as domestic maids and comfort women without any privileges of wife. 9] Incest is also rampant and according to a Delhi organization RAHI, 76% women abuse cases occurred in childhood and 40% of them were committed by family members[10]. Recently some cases have come to light, which are hair raising in their nature. “The case of a father in Lucknow, who has a child each from both his daughters. After his arrest showed no remorse and was quoted as saying: “There is only one function of a woman in this world: ‘To satisfy the man! ” The famous case of Gudia, who became a toy in the hands of the “Maulanas”, who finally succumbed to SLE, a totally curable disease, if diagnosed in time, and given proper treatment which I, a Rheumatologist by profession, can confidently state, is another example. The case of Imrana is an another eye opener. She was raped by her own father-in-law, declared outlawed for her husband, the father of her children, and forced into further living with her father-in-law. It is ridiculous, yet practiced and sanctified, and to top it all, even accepted, in the name of “Religious Fatva”.

    In short women and society are at war with each other. ”[11] Various Scholars have written from time to time about the subjection of women to various social norms. Oone of them is as follows: The Subjection of Women The Subjection of Women is the title of an essay written by John Stuart Mill in 1869, possibly jointly with his wife Harriet Taylor Mill, stating an argument in favour of equality between the sexes. At the time it was published in 1869, this essay was an affront to European conventional norms of views on the status of men and women. The Subjection of Women” (1869) offers both detailed argumentation and passionate eloquence in opposition to the social and legal inequalities commonly imposed upon women by a patriarchal culture. Just as in “On Liberty,” Mill defends the emancipation of women on utilitarian grounds. Mill was convinced that the moral and intellectual advancement of humankind would result in greater happiness for everybody. He asserted that the higher pleasures of the intellect yielded far greater happiness than the lower pleasure of the senses.

    He conceived of human beings as morally and intellectually capable of being educated and civilized. Mill believed everyone should have the right to vote, with the only exceptions being barbarians and uneducated people. Mill argues that people should be able to vote to defend their own rights and to learn to stand on their two feet, morally and intellectually. This argument is applied to both men and women. Mill often used his position as a member of Parliament to demand the vote for women, a controversial position for the time.

    In Mill’s time a woman was generally subject to the whims of her husband and/or father due to social norms which said women were both physically and mentally less able than men, and therefore needed to be “taken care of. ” Contributing to this view were social theories, i. e. survival of the fittest and biological determinism, based on a now considered incorrect understanding of the biological theory of evolution and also religious views supporting a hierarchical view of men and women within the family. The archetype of the ideal woman as mother, wife and homemaker was a powerful idea in 19th century society.

    At the time of writing, Mill recognized that he was going against the common views of society and was aware that he would be forced to back up his claims persistently. Mill argued that the inequality of women was a relic from the past, when “might was right,” but it had no place in the modern world. Mill saw that having effectively half the human race unable to contribute to society outside of the home as a hindrance to human development. Transforming Legal Norms to Empower Women, including Marriage, Inheritance and Property Rights on an international level.

    In many of the countries where laws to protect women are weak Laws which reinforce the subordinate status of women by denying women the right to divorce, right to own property, the ability to enter into contracts, to sue and testify in court, to consent medical treatment and to open a bank account are critical legal rights for women. For example, in Swaziland, fathers are automatically granted custody of children (Ezer et al. , 2007). In Tanzania, the legal age of marriage is 15 years of age for girls, as both ge and marital status tend to impact condom negotiation (Ezer et al. , 2006). Some countries, such as Ethiopia, have reformed their laws to make child marriage under age 18 illegal and established 18 years of age as the legal minimum (Ezer et al. , 2006). Now the challenge in Ethiopia is to enforce new legal minimum). Women also need the basic right to mobility, i. e. , women are not prohibited from accessing transport to services or need permission of male relatives in order to do so. Laws often reflect unequal gender norms that discriminate against women.

    Legal rights and gender norms must be addressed together because in order to change gender norms, laws must be transformed to empower women with basic legal rights and in order to transform laws in countries where women are disempowered, gender norms should be addressed. Understanding Legal Systems. Legal frameworks can empower women—for example through laws that ensure nondiscrimination on the basis of sex—but unfortunately laws often don’t support women. “In many countries, national laws restrict women’s ability to own, inherit, or dispose property. Women suffer inequality in access to education, credit, employment and divorce.

    Legal and social inequality renders women economically dependent on husbands, leaving them little choice but to remain in relationships where they cannot refuse sex or insist on condom use. Women often sink into poverty upon the death of husband or the dissolution of their marriage, finding their choices and possibilities so diminished that they have to trade sex for survival or rely on situations of lodging or work that expose them to sexual abuse or violence. ” (Jurgens and Cohen, 2007: 2 ) It is important to understand the range of legal systems operating around the world when considering promoting legal changes to protect women.

    Countries, or “political entities,” which can include political subdivisions of countries, operate under range of legal systems, categorized in various ways, but broadly as Civil Law, Common Law, Customary Law, Religious Law, and Socialist Law (JuriGlobe, 2009). Among these, civil law is the most prevalent system of law in the world, and relies on written law that is codified in statutes or constitution. Common law, also widely used worldwide and particularly in countries previously under British colonial rule, gives precedence to case-law, decisions made by judges, over legislation (Juri Globe, 2009).

    Many countries use mixed systems in which customary and religious laws often exist as components of legal civil or common legal systems. These mixed domains can incorporate discriminatory views against women. Nigeria, for example, has three legal systems with three rivaling jurisdictions: common law, customary law, and Sharia (Muslim) law (JuriGlobe, 2009). A study by UNIFEM found that the three systems make it difficult to protect women’s rights.

    Customary courts were found particularly problematic because they “administer ‘justice’ based on local social norms, beliefs and practices, resulting in significant variation of customary law and its implementation from one locality to another lead to the disadvantage of women” (UNIFEM, 2006). These sorts of nuances should be taken into account in any legal reform process. Marriage and divorce laws and inheritance and property rights are areas of particular importance for women and require specific action to change the legal norms that keep women unequal to men in eyes of the law.

    Marriage and Divorce Laws Need to Protect Women Marriage laws, including those related to forced marriages, child marriages, polygamy, and divorce, are needed to protect women. “With the exception of South Africa, sexual violence laws around the continent fail to recognize rape in marriage as a crime. In countries such as Ghana and Kenya, consent to sex is considered to be implied by marriage, so a husband cannot rape his wife by definition” (HRW, 2003a: 80). The 1999 Federal Constitution of Nigeria discriminate against women. It encourages child marriage when it proclaims ‘every woman who is married shall be regarded as adult,’ while it also encourages spousal abuse when it says that ‘wives may be corrected provided grievous harm is not committed’” (UNIFEM 2006: 11). Women’s inability or difficulty in obtaining divorce, often coupled with men’s ease with divorce, has serious implications for protection of women. Women’s lack of legal rights within marriage is often compounded with custody and maintenance arrangements and lack of property rights upon divorce. Women’s Inheritance and Property Rights Must Be Secured Research and intervention strategies are just beginning to consider the role that women’s property ownership and inheritance rights might play in potentially breaking the cycle of AIDS and poverty. When women are denied their rights to property, whether in widowhood or desertion by their husbands, they experience deepened poverty and lower social status as result. This is tragically compounded when they themselves become ill, and they are left destitute without shelter or care (Steinzor, 2003). In Kenya, women rarely own land titles either individually or jointly with their husband.

    Husbands may sell the matrimonial home without his wife’s knowledge or consent. The lack of equal property rights upon divorce drives women into poverty, thus wives feel they must remain in abusive marriages as they have no property. Interviews with 1,270 widows in India found that only 22% received widow’s compensation, with no legislation to protect property and inheritance rights (Devasahayam et al. , 2008). A support group for 100 widows in Kenya found that 60% had lost property after deaths of their husbands and 20% had either to be inherited by relatives of the deceased or vacate the matrimonial home.

    Most could not afford legal fees to fight for their rights (WambuiWaweru, 2004). Women in polygamous marriages have additional concerns in accessing property where only one wife is entitled to property (Knox et al. , 2007). In some countries, women are excluded from the decision-making process in land disputes as men hold the vast majority of seats in institutions that adjudicate land rights (FIDA Kenya and Georgetown University Law Center, 2009). “Many women are not aware of their legal rights to inherit property nor do [they] have the capacity to have them enforced by the judiciary” (Oja, 2008: 10).

    Rights-based training for women is underway in a number of countries in sub-Saharan Africa and training is also underway for police and the judiciary to uphold women’s property rights (Oja, 2008). Access by women to pro bono legal assistance is critical (COHRE, 2004). International treaties, laws, and other instruments that protect women’s inheritance and property rights exist but are not consistently applied. Similarly, existing national laws that protect women’s property rights are often poorly enforced.

    A random sample of 219 households in rural Uganda with 74 enrolled in focus group discussions from seven villages found that many women are ignorant about the laws that protect them from widow inheritance and protect their property rights (Mabumba et al. , 2007). Moving Forward Requires Access For Women and Transformation of Legal Frameworks Women’s access to legal service is critical. Few women have access to legal advice, and current provision of services is often dependent on volunteers or paralegals with limited knowledge of women’s rights. These networks train paralegals in the fundamentals of property law and dispute resolution.

    In many countries, reform of constitutional, statutory, and customary laws is needed to guarantee equal rights for women. Constitutional reform is underway in countries such as Kenya, Namibia, and Tanzania, providing opportunity to change women’s rights. Ensuring that laws are consistent with constitutional change is critical. Protective legal frameworks should encompass inheritance, marriage, division of property upon divorce, land use and ownership, and access to housing. Many organizations are working to change written codes using the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) as a guide.

    In Nepal, for example, women’s groups pressured leading political parties to protect the right of women to own and inherit property, and this led to a new law, passed 2002, which gives a wife equal right to her husband’s property immediately after marriage. While some customary laws support the equal rights of women, others are discriminatory. In Kenya, for example, customary laws that undermine efforts to improve statutory legislation are allowed by the constitution. Changing customary laws requires efforts to change community attitude and practices.

    Furthermore, constitutions in some countries are progressive and the issue is to challenge statutes that no longer comply with the constitutions. Efforts to promote women’s legal rights should ensure gender-transformative legislation, promotion of judicial capacity and effective litigation and advancing public awareness (Kim et al. , 2008; ARASA, 2009). While numerous countries have constitutions that recognize women’s equality and have ratified international and regional human rights treaties, national legislation is not enforced or is superseded by customary law. Laws for Women actual position.

    There are various laws which are in favor of women formed with a view of protecting women and enhancing their status which will also depict that society is developing. One of the major laws protecting women is passed by Indian Parliament in 1983, Indian Penal Code 498A, is a criminal law (not a civil law) which is defined as follow, “Whoever, being the husband or the relative of the husband of a woman, subjects such woman to cruelty shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to fine. The offence is Cognizable, non-compoundable and non-bailable. Although this law protect women against domestic violence  still the status of women remains same with nmuch improvement. According to an article in Time magazine, deaths in India related to dowry demands have increase 15-fold since mid-1980s from 400 a year to around 5,800 a year by the middle of the 1990s “Of the 1,133 cases of “unnatural deaths” of women in Bangalore in 1997, only 157 were treated as murder while 546 were categorized as “suicides” and 430 as “accidents”‘ But of 550 cases reported between January and September 1997, 71 percent were closed as ‘kitchen/cooking accidents’ and stove-bursts’. [12] Now let’s ponder upon the role of various religion and the status of women in them. Hindu View on Women To understand social and cultural life of Hindus and their view on women, one must understand Hinduism. Hinduism is for the world and there is no ‘unworldiness’ in it. In Hindu society, every worldly activity is under control of religion. It orders ceremonies throughout his life and gives instructions to his descendants, which they must follow in order that his happiness may be secured.

    So to find out Hindu view on women, one has to have a look at the life of the Hindus, the position, the importance and the working area of the women in their everyday life. The status of women in early Hindu society was an enviable one. They could avail of the highest learning and there were many philosophers among them. Ghosha, Apala, Lopamudra, Vishwvara, Surya, Indrani, Yami, Romasha – all these names highlight the position and the esteem which Hindu women enjoyed in Vedic period. Devi-Sukta’of the Rgveda is courtesy ‘vac'( daughter of sage Ambhrna).

    In theosophical debate between Shankaracharya and Mandana Mishra, the latter’s wife was appointed to be the judge – obviously because of her superior knowledge and spiritual attainments. Vrihadaranyakopanishad(2. 34)1gives the evidence of Maitreyi opting for Brhamvidya rather than wealth and worldly pleasures. Women were also allowed to observe celibacy (Atharvaveda 12. 3. 17). and study Vedas. Not only this, the Ashvalayana and Gobhil Grihyasutras and Harit-Dharmasutra show even sacred thread ceremony (the Upanayana Samskara) being performed for women. Women used to teach even. Queens like Kaikeyi helped their husbands in the battlefield.

    It would thus be seen that at that time there was not a single area where women did not take part or excel their counterpart’s – men. As far as the history of ordinary womenfolk goes, their position on the whole was free. Girls were normally not married till they were in late teens and sometimes even later. They had a fair amount of choice in the selection of a mate, which is evidenced by the – then prevalence of the “swayamvara-system”. The cases of Sita, Damayanti, Draupadi, Shakuntala (the adopted daughter of sage Kanva) are the instances of the choice women enjoyed in choosing their husbands.

    From birth till death Hindu had (and even today has) to perform hundreds of ceremonies and not even one of them could be performed without the presence of the wife(Rigveda 5. 102). During the 7th to the 9th century A. D. also we find that the general level of the culture and position of women was high. Women, including those not belonging to higher classes, had some opportunities for liberal education, as well as training in fine arts (especially those of painting, music and versification).

    Rajyashree(sister of the renowned king Harshvardhana)was a disciple of Lord Buddha and her advice was sought on various important matters. Rajshekhar(Kavya-Mimamsa) quotes examples of princesses, daughters of high officials, of courtesans, and of concubines who were poetesses as well as adepts in sciences. Avantisundari, the wife of the poet Rajshekhar, was exceptionally accomplished woman. Rajshekhar’s Karpurmanjari was produced at her request and Hemachandra quotes three of her stanzas. The dramas and prose romances of this age also illustrate the contemporary state of learning among women.

    Here we find that court ladies and even the queens’ maid-in-waiting are capable of composing excellent Sanskrit and Prakrit verses. Shila-Mahadevi, wife of Rashtrakuta emperor Dhruva, probably ruled jointly with her husband and enjoyed the privilege of granting large gifts. Several queens of Kara dynasty ruled in Orissa. Sugandha and Didda of Kashmir administered extensive kingdoms as dowager queens. It was only with the invasion of foreigners on our country that changes occurred which affected the position of women.

    As the life, property and the chastity of women were of little value to the invaders, each community built a fortress of social norms to protect their women – resulting in the rigid systems, child marriages (before a girl could be of an age attractive enough to be abducted),the shaving of widows heads (to make them look unattractive),the widespread practice of Sati (though Alberuni has written that ‘Sati-system was prevalent, yet a widow was not compelled to immolate herself. She had the option – see Alberuni’s India, Vol 2, P. 151-52). Rigveda has evidence where a widow was allowed to marry her late husband’s brother (10. 0. 2). (Medieval Indian Culture by A. L. Srivastava on page 23). These then became the norms during this unsettled period of Indian history, and Hindu women could not enjoy the same sort of liberty and equality, which they had enjoyed during the early periods. Yet there is evidence that shows them taking part in the battlefield and outdoor games with the men. Though Hindu society is a patriarchal society where male is the head of the family, yet the mother enjoys a very high status. The sculptures always say that in order of preference worship your mother first (Mahabharata,Shantiparva 267. 31 ,348. 8;Vanparva313. 60,Apastamba Dharmsutra i. 10. 28. 9,Manusmriti2. 145 etc. ) However, there is no denying the fact that during the period when the country was under the rule of foreigners, the position of women in Hindu society did decline, particularly in economic context. With the advent of independence, attempts were made to secure economic independence of women and to give her back her right place in society. The Constitution of India guarantees equality of status to Indian women with that of men. The Hindu woman has improved her social status considerably during the post independence period.

    Her legal disabilities with regard to the marriage, inheritance, guardianship and adoption have been removed. She inherits, by right, the property of her father on the basis of equality with her brothers. With regard to economic rights, she can hold and acquire property and can enter public services and can take to any profession. In conclusion, one can say that due of certain circumstances, the position of women may have changed from time to time, declined eventually but still with changes in time law and even the customs in Hindu Law have recognized the importance of status of women and have made provision accordingly. Muslim Law and Women

    The Qur’an states both that men and women are equal, but also, as in 4:34, that “Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allah has made one of them to excel the other, and because they spend from their means. Therefore the righteous women are devoutly obedient and guard in the husband’s absence what Allah orders them to guard. ” Islam sees a woman, whether single or married, as an individual in her own right, with the right to own and dispose of her property and earnings. A marriage dowry is given by the groom to the bride for her own personal use, and she keeps her own family name rather than taking her husband’s.

    The religion of Islam was revealed for all societies and all times and so accommodates widely differing social requirements. Circumstances may warrant the taking of another wife but the right is granted, according to the Quran, only on condition that the husband is scrupulously fair. This provision under Muslim law is itself discriminating against women whereby men are given freedom to marry more than one women. There are some provisions which are favor in women also such as every year in the month of Ramzan, all Muslims fast from first light until sundown, abstaining from food, drink, and sexual relations.

    Those who are sick, elderly, or on journey, and women who are pregnant or nursing are permitted to break the fast and make up an equal number of days later in the year.  The contract of marriage under the Mohammedan law can be dissolved in any one of the following ways:  by the husband at his will, without the intervention of the court by mutual consent of the husband and wife, without the intervention of the court  by a judicial decree at the suit by one of them. A wife cannot divorce herself from her husband without his consent (unless there is specific agreement to that effect – made before or after the marriage) But she can obtain a divorce through a judicial decree in some cases. Hence it can be seen that men has been given more importance, law is discriminating against women. Men can divorce women at their will without intervention of court but vice-versa is declared forbidden by law. Dower or Mahr is a sum of money or other property which wife is entitled to receive from the husband in consideration for the marriage. The husband may settle any amount he likes by the way of dower upon his wife, though it may be beyond his means, though nothing may be left to his heirs after the payment of the amount.

    Dower is often high to discourage husband from divorcing his wife, in which case has to pay huge amount as stipulated. The mere fact the amount is excessive and beyond the means of the husband is no defence against the wife’s claim. If the amount of dower is not fixed, then the wife is entitled to fix a “proper” dower. If the dower is not paid, the wife, and after her death, her heirs, may sue for it.  The period of limitation is 3 years for “prompt” (when demand was made).  In case of divorce, three years from the date of divorce.  If no demand was not made during the life time of the husband, then 3 years from the death of the husband. The wife may refuse to live with her husband and refuse to have sexual relations with him as long as the prompt dower is not paid.  If a Muslim husband sues his wife for restitution of conjugal rights, non-payment of prompt dower is a defence. A Muslim girl, of 15 years, who has attained puberty, is competent to enter into a contract of marriage. When consent to a marriage has not been obtained, consummation against the will of the women will not validate the marriage. The Personal Law empowers Muslim women to retain their surnames, assets and incomes separately even after marriage.

    As a result, in the event of default of the husband, a court would not be able to reckon the wife’s wealth into consideration to satisfy his creditors’ claims. The husband and wife are never excluded from succession, but inherit together with the nearest heirs by consanguinity. According to the sunnah, a woman should not be punished for having been coerced into having sex. This is made clear by the following hadith: “During the time of the Prophet (saw) punishment was inflicted on the rapist on the solitary evidence of the woman who was raped by him.

    Wa’il ibn Hujr reports of an incident when a woman was raped. Later, when some people came by, she identified and accused the man of raping her. They seized him and brought him to Allah’s messenger, who said to the woman, “Go away, for Allah has forgiven you,” but of the man who had raped her, he said, “Stone him to death. ” (Tirmidhi and Abu Dawud)” According to a Sunni hadith, the punishment for committing rape is death, there is no blame attached to the victim. Islam, as the pre-Islamic Arabic culture before it, is natalist, and promotes the birth of as many children as a Muslim couple can produce.

    However, under certain circumstances, it is permissible according to Islamic doctrine to limit (tahdid an-nasl) or at least control (‘azl) reproduction, without suffering the fate of a penalty for the gesture. Limiting the number of children is recommended when a family lacks the resources to provide for them. General opinions among Muslims can sometimes be lenient with women who, being weakened, seek to end an unwanted pregnancy, particularly if her health is endangered or if she has given birth many times.

    The only hadith relating to female political leadership is Sahih al-Bukhari, 5:59:709, in which Muhammad is recorded as saying that people with a female ruler will never be successful. (Muhammed was referring to the Persian people. He said, “Such people as ruled by a lady will never be successful. ” However, many classical Islamic scholars, such as al-Tabari, supported female leadership, there have been instances in past whereby women have been in the leaders position for e. x. , Razia Sultan, and more recently Benazir Bhutto. Islamic Laws for Women

    At first Muhammad said to her “Get even with him”, but then added ‘Wait until I think about it”. Later on the above verse was revealed, and Muhammad added, ‘We (He and the woman) wanted one thing, Allah wanted another. In other words, God blessed a man slapping around his wife. Zamakhshari, Jalalan and Baydawi also support this. The Arabic is much stronger that the words “beat them”. It actually says “scourge (whip) them”. Muhammad Pickthall correctly translates it this way in his version of the Qur’an. “

    Another Muslim scholar (Imam al-Mawawi, in Riyad al-Salihin, (“The Orchards of Righteous Men”), p 107-108) addresses this issue by relating a story from early Islam: “Umar Khattab came to Muhammad saying, ‘Women have dared to disobey husbands. ‘ He (Muhammad) allowed their husbands to scourge them. Many women approached Muhammad complaining against their husbands because Muhammad received a verse for the Qur’an which commands their husbands to scourge them. ” In addition to this Zamakhshari writes “Muhammad said ‘Hang up your scourge (whip) where your wife or wives can see it'”, (BTV, p81).

    Some Muslims say that men inherit more than women because the male is the bread winner, and the women is to be supported by her male relatives. But there are circumstances possible where the sister would be in more need of finances than the brother. What if the sister is married to a poor man and has many children, and her brother is wealthy? Why does Islamic law deny women an equal share in the inheritance? Why does the woman have to trust her male relative’s discretion? What if he squanders the money? In this case, women are at a disadvantage. )  A man can fulfill his sexual desires with a variety of women. Qur’an- 23:5 “Blessed are the believers… who restrain their carnal desires (except with their wives and slave girls for these are lawful to them)… In other words, men can have up to 4 wives, and he can also have sexual relations with as many slave girls as he owns. Muhammad had at least one captured female who he had sex with – Rayhana. Muhammad had massacred 800 Jewish male captives. He then sold the women and children as slaves.

    He kept at least one female for himself – Rayhana. He wanted to marry her, and she refused, so he kept her as a concubine. (Sirat, p466). Mariyam was also his concubine, until she gave birth to a son- Ibrahim. After that, Muhammad married her. (KTK, p151) It was okay for a man to use his female slaves for his personal sexual pleasure. However he was not allowed to make her a prostitute. Arabs used to wait for one period cycle before having sex with their slaves so as to make sure that they are not pregnant. The Qur’an also treats women like a pieces of property for men.

    The ease of divorce accommodates the man, but not the women (in most cases she needs her husband’s permission). Ref. 4:20 – “If you wish to replace a wife with another, do not take from her dowry… that would be unfair”. If a man has divorced his wife three times she may not remarry him, until she has married another man, and consummated that marriage, then divorced the other man. ref. 2:230. Islamic law calls this other man ‘Muhalil’. This is supported by Bukhari 7, p136, and the commentators Jalalan, Baydawi, and Soyuti. (BTV, p102)

    Women can be divorced by their husbands with or without cause, but she can only seek divorce from her husband with her husband’s consent, (HDI, ‘Women’) 5) LEGAL TESTIMONY A woman’s legal testimony is worth half of a man’s, (only except in the event that she is accused of adultery). Qur’an- 2:282 “… and call in to witness two witnesses, men; or if the two be not men, then one man and two women, such witness as you approve of, that if one women errs the other will remind her. “

    Here is the Hadith: “Narrated Abu Said Al-Khudri: Once Allah’s apostle went out to the Musalla (to offer the prayer) of Id-al-Adha or Al-Fitr prayer. Then he passed by the women and said, “O women! Give alms, as I have seen that the majority of the dwellers of Hell-fire were you (women). ” They asked, “Why is it so, O Allah’s apostle? ” He replied, “You curse frequently are ungrateful to your husbands. I have not seen anyone more deficient in intelligence and religion than you. A cautious sensible man could be led astray by some of you”. The women asked, “O Allah’s apostle! What is deficient in our intelligence and religion? He said, is not the evidence of two women equal to the witness of one man? ” They replied in the affirmative. He said, “This is the deficiency in your intelligence. Isn’t it true that a women can neither pray nor fast during her menses? ” The women replied in the affirmative. He said: “This is the deficiency in your religion. ” Bukhari, volume 1, #301, and vol. 3, #826: Some Muslims say that there is no comparison with men here. “Deficient in intelligence…? Deficient compared to who or what? What or who is the standard? The context and reference of the quote will give us the answer.

    Let’s take a look at the sentence in question: “I have not seen anyone more deficient in intelligence and religion than you (the women he was talking to). ” He’s calling them ‘deficient in intelligence’. Deficient means “lacking, defective, insufficient, inadequate”. Muhammad is saying that women’s intelligence is all these things. Are women deficient when compared to children? To dogs? To donkeys? To God? What is Muhammad’s standard? The women question him on this; they are wondering why he said that. They ask, “Muhammad, how are we defective, insufficient, lacking and inadequate in intelligence? Muhammad answers with some words similar to those in the Qur’an: “Is not the evidence of two women equal to the witness of one man? ” He cements women’s deficient intelligence by pointing out to them that their testimony is worth half of a man’s. These women, knowing his teaching agree. Muhammad then points out “This is the defectiveness in your intelligence. ” Muhammad references men when justifying his statement that women are deficient in intelligence when compared to men. Muhammad uses the testimony of men as the comparison. Women are being compared to men, there is no doubt about it.

    Muhammad elaborated on his ‘inadequate in intelligence’ statement by tying their ‘deficiency in intelligence’ with the Quran’s verse of 2:282. In effect, Muhammad says to them, “You women are somewhat stupid, so much so that your testimony is worth only half of a man’s. Here is the pertinent part of 2:282 – “Call in two male witnesses from among you, but if two men cannot be found, then one man, and two women whom you judge fit to act as witnesses, so that if either of them commit an error, the other will remind her. ” The Qur’an also implies that women are deficient in intelligence when compared to men.

    It does not explicitly say “women are deficient in intelligence when compared to men”, but when the Qur’an says “men are superior to women” (4:34), “and the testimony of two women equals one man’s” (2:282), it implies women are of inferior intelligence (when compared to men). But why do you need two women’s testimonies for one man’s? Why couldn’t one be good enough? The bottom line is that women don’t equal men in this testimony. Muslims point out that in cases of adultery, a women’s testimony is more valid than a man’s (refer to Qur’an- 24:6-9). But that is only for the case of adultery.

    These Qur’anic verses related to this deal explicitly with un-chastity. It is not the other way around. What the verses say are that in the case of a women being accused of sexual sin, her testimony is just as valid as her husband’s. Perhaps because Muhammad thought the women should know if she committed sexual sin, so he gave women the benefit of the doubt. Muslims try to say that the context of 2:228 relates to testimony on financial transactions, which are often complex and loaded with business jargon. What Muhammad meant is that women were deficient in intelligence because at the time they were not familiar with business related issues.

    This sounds like an easy out, but it isn’t. Muslim’s believe that the Qur’an is the literal word of God. What the Qur’an lays down as law, they must follow. Why would the Qur’an lay down a law like ‘you must have two women’s testimony, to account for one man’s testimony’? If it were only a case of local custom or culture, would it have become Qur’anic law? No, Allah is making a point, establishing a precept for future Muslims to follow: “Two women’s testimony for one man’s. ” Further, didn’t Khadijah (Muhammad’s first wife) own a business? Was she so financially inept that she couldn’t deal in business?

    Were all the women back then so ignorant and backward? I don’t think so. Let’s examine some Muslim writings related to this. Here’s a contemporary one. Recently, a female Muslim writer commenting on the two for one witness law wrote: “Women were made to bear and feed children, therefore they are very emotional. And she is forgetful, for if she did not forget how it is to give birth she would not have another child. That is why she will not be as reliable a witness as a man”. (Taken from “The Age”, Life behind a veil of Islam, 3/3/1992, p11. A quote from a contemporary Muslim – Dr.

    Aly Farrukha, Director of Islamic Studies in Chicago says: “The issue of a woman’s testimony in court is a divine order which necessitates that a woman who is a witness should be accompanied by another woman in order to remind her if she forgets and to correct her is she makes an error. ” (So they are saying that a woman’s memory is also poor) This Muslim scholar states that woman’s testimony is worth half of a man’s in all legal issues. I will add except for the charge of un-chastity. Now, from the Jalalan (p79), a great Muslim Qur’anic commentary: “Men have been given authority over women to discipline and control them by the merits of

    KNOWLEDGE, INTELLIGENCE, and custody… ” Finally, let me quote from the Muslim writer Ali Dashti (in “23 Years: A Study of the Prophetic Career of Muhammad”, p113, 114) “According to the Tafsir ol-Jalalayn, the superiority of men lies in intelligence, knowledge and administrative ability. Zamakhshari, Baydawi, and several other commentators go into more detail and construct metaphysical theories; they liken men’s authority over women to that of rulers over subjects, and maintain that prophethood, prayer-leadership, and rulership are reserved for men because men are stronger, more intelligent, and more prudent. Sounds pretty clear to me. Islam teaches that men are superior to women in intelligence. (I should be happy with this as I am a man but what about Equality, women’s rights! )  Islam, teaches the husband to be responsible for his wife and household as indicated in 4:34. It is his role as ‘qawwam’ or manager. In the Hans-Wehr Arabic-English Dictionary, p800: ‘Qawwam’ means: manager, director, superintendent, caretaker, keeper, custodian, guardian”. Islamic men do indeed manage their women. But there is another part of 4:34…. Men have authority over women because God has made the one superior to the other, and because they spend their wealth to maintain them. Good women are obedient……… Then if they (the women) obey you (the men), take no further action against them. ” So, Islam also requires women to submit to men. As a final reference, examine Muhammad’s farewell address. I quote from Guillaume’s translation, page 651: “Lay injunctions on women kindly, for they are prisoners with you having no control of their persons”.

    You can see that men do more than ‘maintain’ women. They indeed are women’s managers. Women are deficient with respect to men in piety. Women are deficient in gratitude when compared to men. Continuing with Bukhari, vol. 1, #28: “Women are ungrateful to their husbands and are ungrateful for the favors and the good deeds done to them. If you have always been good to one of them and then she sees something in you (not of her liking), she will say, “I have never received any good from you. “” Women in India now participate in all activities such as education,sports, politics, media, art and culture, service sectors, science and technology, etc. Indira Gandhi, who served as Prime Minister of India for an aggregate eriod of fifteen years is the world’s longest serving woman Prime Minister.

    The Constitution of India guarantees to all Indian women equality (Article 14), no discrimination by the State (Article 15(1)), equality of opportunity (Article 16), equal pay for equal work (Article 39(d)). In addition, it allows special provisions to be made by the State in favour of women and children (Article 15(3)), renounces practices derogatory to the dignity of women (Article 51(A) (e)), and also allows for provisions to be made by the State for securing just and humane conditions of work and for maternity relief. Article 42). [23] The feminist activism in India picked up momentum during later 1970s. One of the first national level issues that brought the women’s groups together was the Mathura rape case. The acquittal of policemen accused of raping a young girl Mathura in a police station, led to a wide-scale protests in 1979–1980. The protests were widely covered in the national media, and forced the Government to amend the Evidence Act, the Criminal Procedure Code and the Indian Penal Code and introduce the category of custodial rape.

    Female activists united over issues such as female infanticide, gender bias, women health, and female literacy. Since alcoholism is often associated with violence against women in India, many women groups launched anti-liquor campaigns in Andhra Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh and other states. Many Indian Muslim women have questioned the fundamental leaders’ interpretation of women’s rights under the Shariat law and have criticized the triple talaq system. In 1990s, grants from foreign donor agencies enabled the formation of new women-oriented NGOs.

    Self-help groups and NGOs such as Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) have played a major role in women’s rights in India. Many women have emerged as leaders of local movements. For example, Medha Patkar of the Narmada Bachao Andolan. The Government of India declared 2001 as the Year of Women’s Empowerment (Swashakti). The National Policy For The Empowerment Of Women came was passed in 2001. In 2006, the case of a Muslim rape victim called Imrana was highlighted in the media. Imrana was raped by her father-in-law.

    The pronouncement of some Muslim clerics that Imrana should marry her father-in-law led to widespread protests and finally Imrana’s father-in-law was given a prison term of 10 years, The verdict was welcomed by many women’s groups and the All India Muslim Personal Law Board In 2010 March 9, one day after International Women’s day, Rajyasabha passed Women’s Reservation Bill, ensuring 33% reservation to women in Parliament and state legislative bodies. ] Timeline The steady change in their position can be highlighted by looking at what has been achieved by women in the country: 1879: John Elliot Drinkwater Bethune established the Bethune School in 1849, which developed into the Bethune College in 1879, thus becoming the first women’s college in India. ? 1883: Chandramukhi Basu and Kadambini Ganguly became the first female graduates of India and the British Empire. ? 1886: Kadambini Ganguly and Anandi Gopal Joshi became the first women from India to be trained in Western medicine. ? 1905: Suzanne RD Tata becomes the first Indian woman to drive a car.

    Education and economic development According to 1992-93 figures, only 9. 2% of the households in India were female-headed. However, approximately 35% of the households below the poverty line were found to be female-headed. Education Though it is gradually rising, the female literacy rate in India is lower than the male literacy rate. Compared to boys, far fewer girls are enrolled in the schools, and many of them drop out. According to the National Sample Survey Data of 1997, only the states of Kerala and Mizoram have approached universal female literacy rates.

    According to majority of the scholars, the major factor behind the improved social and economic status of women in Kerala is literacy. Under Non-Formal Education programme (NFE), about 40% of the centres in states and 10% of the centres in UTs are exclusively reserved for females. As of 2000, about 0. 3 million NFE centres were catering to about 7. 42 million children, out of which about 0. 12 million were exclusively for girls. In urban India, girls are nearly at par with the boys in terms of education. However, in rural India girls continue to be less educated than the boys.

    According to a 1998 report by U. S. Department of Commerce, the chief barrier to female education in India are inadequate school facilities (such as sanitary facilities), shortage of female teachers and gender bias in curriculum (majority of the female characters being depicted as weak and helpless). Workforce participation Contrary to the common perception, a large percent of women in India work. The National data collection agencies accept the fact that there is a serious under-estimation of women’s contribution as workers. ] However, there are far fewer women in the paid workforce than there are men.

    In urban India Women have impressive number in the workforce. As an example at software industry 30% of the workforce is female. They are at par with their male counter parts in terms of wages, position at the work place. In rural India, agriculture and allied industrial sectors employ as much as 89. 5% of the total female labour. In overall farm production, women’s average contribution is estimated at 55% to 66% of the total labour. According to a 1991 World Bank report, women accounted for 94% of total employment in dairy production in India.

    Women constitute 51% of the total employed in forest-based small-scale enterprises. One of the most famous female business success stories is the Shri Mahila Griha Udyog Lijjat Papad. In 2006, Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, who started Biocon – one of India’s first biotech companies, was rated India’s richest woman. Lalita Gupte and Kalpana Morparia (both were the only businesswomen in India who made the list of the Forbes World’s Most Powerful Women), run India’s second-largest bank, ICICI Bank. Land and property rights

    In most Indian families , women do not own any property in their own names, and do not get a share of parental property. Due to weak enforcement of laws protecting them, women continue to have little access to land and property. In fact, some of the laws discriminate against women, when it comes to land and property rights. The Hindu personal laws of mid-1956s (applied to Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs and Jains) gave women rights to inheritance. However, the sons had an independent share in the ancestral property, while the daughters’ shares were based on the share received by their father.

    Hence, a father could effectively disinherit a daughter by renouncing his share of the ancestral property, but the son will continue to have a share in his own right. Additionally, married daughters, even those facing marital harassment, had no residential rights in the ancestral home. After amendment of Hindu laws in 2005, now women in have been provided the same status as that of men. [ In 1986, the Supreme Court of India ruled that Shah Bano, an old divorced Muslim woman was eligible for maintenance money.

    However, the decision was vociferously opposed by fundamentalist Muslim leaders, who alleged that the court was interfering in their personal law. The Union Government subsequently passed the Muslim Women’s (Protection of Rights Upon Divorce) Act. Similarly, the Christian women have struggled over years for equal rights of divorce and succession. In 1994, all the churches, jointly with women’s organisations, drew up a draft law called the Christian Marriage and Matrimonial Causes Bill. However, the government has still not amended the relevant laws CRIMES AGAINST WOMEN

    Police records show high incidence of crimes against women in India. The National Crime Records Bureau reported in 1998 that the growth rate of crimes against women would be higher than the population growth rate by 2010. Earlier, many cases were not registered with the police due to the social stigma attached to rape and molestation cases. Official statistics show that there has been a dramatic increase in the number of reported crimes against women. Half of the total number of crimes against women reported in 1990 related to molestation and harassment at the workplace. 23] Eve teasing is a euphemism used for sexual harassment or molestation of women by men. Many activists blame the rising incidents of sexual harassment against women on the influence of “Western culture”. In 1987, The Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act was passed to prohibit indecent representation of women through advertisements or in publications, writings, paintings, figures or in any other manner. In 1997, in a landmark judgement, the Supreme Court of India took a strong stand against sexual harassment of women in the workplace.

    The Court also laid down detailed guidelines for prevention and redressal of grievances. The National Commission for Women subsequently elaborated these guidelines into a Code of Conduct for employers. Dowry In 1961, the Government of India passed the Dowry Prohibition Act making the dowry demands in wedding arrangements illegal. However, many cases of dowry-related domestic violence, suicides and murders have been reported. In the 1980s, numerous such cases were reported. In 1985, the Dowry Prohibition (maintenance of lists of presents to the bride and bridegroom) rules were framed.

    According to these rules, a signed list of presents given at the time of the marriage to the bride and the bridegroom should be maintained. The list should contain a brief description of each present, its approximate value, the name of whoever has given the present and his/her relationship to the person. However, such rules are hardly enforced. A 1997 report claimed that at least 5,000 women die each year because of dowry deaths, and at least a dozen die each day in ‘kitchen fires’ thought to be intentional. The term for this is “bride burning” and is criticized within India itself.

    Amongst the urban educated, such dowry abuse has reduced considerably. Child marriage Child marriage has been traditionally prevalent in India and continues to this day. Historically, young girls would live with their parents until they reached puberty. In the past, the child widows were condemned to a life of great agony, shaving heads, living in isolation, and shunned by the society. Although child marriage was outlawed in 1860, it is still a common practice. According to UNICEF’s “State of the World’s Children-2009” report, 47% of India’s women aged 20–24 were married before the legal age of 18, with 56% in rural areas.

    The report also showed that 40% of the world’s child marriages occur in India. India has a highly masculine sex ratio, the chief reason being that many women die before reaching adulthood. Tribal societies in India have a less masculine sex ratio than all other caste groups. This, in spite of the fact that tribal communities have far lower levels of income, literacy and health facilities. It is therefore suggested by many experts, that the highly masculine sex ratio in India can be attributed to female infanticides and sex-selective abortions.

    All medical tests that can be used to determine the sex of the child have been banned in India, due to incidents of these tests being used to get rid of unwanted female children before birth. Female infanticide (killing of girl infants) is still prevalent in some rural areas. [23] The abuse of the dowry tradition has been one of the main reasons for sex-selective abortions and female infanticides in India. Domestic violence The incidents of domestic violence are higher among the lower Socio-Economic Classes . The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 came into force on October 26, 2006.

    Trafficking The Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act was passed in 1956. [52] However many cases of trafficking of young girls and women have been reported. These women are either forced into prostitution, domestic work or child labour. Health The average female life expectancy today in India is low compared to many countries, but it has shown gradual improvement over the years. In many families, especially rural ones, the girls and women face nutritional discrimination within the family, and are anaemic and malnourished.

    The maternal mortality in India is the second highest in the world. Only 42% of births in the country are supervised by health professionals. Most women deliver with help from women in the family who often lack the skills and resources to save the mother’s life if it is in danger. According to UNDP Human Development Report (1997), 88% of pregnant women (age 15-49) were found to be suffering from anaemia. The average woman in rural areas of India has little or no control over her reproductivity.

    Women, particularly women in rural areas, do not have access to safe and self-controlled methods of contraception. The public health system emphasises permanent methods like sterilisation, or long-term methods like IUDs that do not need follow-up. Sterilization accounts for more than 75% of total contraception, with female sterilisation accounting for almost 95% of all sterilisations. Savitribai Phule was a social reformer who along with her husband, Mahatma Jotiba Phule played an important role in improving women’s rights in India during the British Rule.

    Savitribai was the first female teacher of the first women’s school in India and also considered as the pioneer of modern Marathi poetry. In 1852 she opened a school for Untouchable girls. Singers and vocalists such as M. S. Subbulakshmi, Gangubai Hangal, Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhosle are widely revered in India. Anjolie Ela Menon is one of the famous painters. SPORTS Although the general sports scenario in India is not very good, some Indian women have made notable achievements in the field.

    Some of the famous female sportspersons in Indian include P. T. Usha,J. J. Shobha (athletics), Kunjarani Devi (weightlifting), Diana Edulji (cricket), Saina Nehwal (badminton), Koneru Hampi (chess) and Sania Mirza (tennis). Karnam Malleswari (weightlifter), is the only Indian woman to have won an Olympic medal (Bronze medal in 2000). Through the Panchayat Raj institutions, over a million women have actively entered political life in India. As per the 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendment Acts, all local elected bodies reserve one-third of their seats for women.

    Although the percentages of women in various levels of political activity has risen considerably, women are still under-represented in governance and decisionmaking positions. Many well-known women writers are in Indian literature as poets and story writers. Sarojini Naidu, Kamala Surayya, Shobha De, Arundhati Roy, Anita Desai are some of them. Sarojini Naidu is called the nightingale of India. Arundhati Roy was awarded the Booker Prize (Man Booker Prize) for her novel The God of Small Things.

    Since time memorial society in various part of the world have been patriarchal in nature. With the development in society and change of time feminist movement gained strength, hence patriarchy supporters have came up with new ways to counter this recent development. The most fashionable way to oppress females these days is the imposition of “social norms,” a phrase that is merely a euphemism for patriarchal values. Since it is not “normal” in patriarchal societies for females to be emancipated, any female seeking equality will inevitably violate social norm of female subjugation.

    Every step towards equality has been a struggle against social norms. Suffrage was seen as an outrageous demand when the norm was for only males to have vote. Education was viewed as a potential health hazard to females when the norm was for only males to have access to universities. Forty years ago females were not permitted to enter public places like schools or restaurants wearing slacks because social norm was for only males to wear pants. And in places today where female genital mutilation is the social norm, females who attempt to resist are viewed as social deviates.

    Not too long ago there was discussion on Slate, the online magazine, between Susan Faludi and a female psychologist. The psychologist was angry about legislation forcing employers to make reasonable accommodations for employees with mental illness because this could prevent health care professionals from enforcing social norms. Unmentioned was the fact that healthy attempt to attain equality, self-respect, the respect of others, and the rights guaranteed to all persons by our Constitution can easily be labeled mental illness or deviance from social norms.

    There is urgent need for enforcement of current legislation barring the imposition of stereotypical behavior by government and large employers so that the practice of using medical profession to oppress females can be stopped. An example of social norming can be seen in the recent Demi Moore movie, G. I. Jane, when the female title character decides that having a shaved head like the other (male) people in SEALs training is necessary in order to avoid looking different and not fitting in. This is exactly what was done by some of the young women who recently entered previously all-male military academies.

    If the social norm for a particular group is a shaved head, anyone who wishes to conform to social norms of that group must shave their head. But those who don’t want females to be able to fit into certain previously all-male groups insist that females must conform, not to the social norms of the given group, but to the social norms for females in the patriarchal society at large, even if by doing so they are prevented from conforming to social norms of the group in which they wish to participate as an equal.

    In this way employer can say that all employees must make a neat, clean appearance at a worksite where most workers are male, and then penalize a female employee for conforming to that social norm and therefore failing to make a sexually attractive appearance such as is expected of females in the patriarchal society at large. The female employee can then come under suspicion of being homosexual or of having mental disabilities, and thus be prevented from conforming to the social norms of that particular workplace.

    Since an employer may be prevented by law from imposing stereotypical behavior, such as insisting that female mechanic dress like the female receptionists at workplace while permitting male mechanics to dress appropriately to their job, the employer simply calls on (often female) health care professionals to counsel the female employee about conforming to social norms. Those who submit then have the additional unpaid job duties of coping with the attention that their attractive appearance attracts, along with the harassment and discrimination that anyone who tries o fit into a group of workers without conforming to the social norms of that particular group usually must endure. Those who refuse to submit can be labeled disruptive, mentally ill, unable to get along with coworkers, etc. , and fired. In patriarchal society males have many groups, such as doctors, lawyers, football players, blue collar workers, etc. , and each group has its own social norms, but females have only one group: females, and the social norms for females never seen to permit conformance with the social norms for any group that includes males.

    Social norms in a patriarchal society like our own can be very strange indeed. Bernard Lefkowitz’s recent book Our Guys, (Univ. of California Press, 1977) uses the careful study of the people in a town where sexual assault made headlines, to dissect and expose some of our social norms. The book makes clear that violence and pornography are social norms for young males, and that it is a social norm for young females to be the objects of male violence and sexual assault.

    The normalization of rape goes back to early matriarchal societies which respected life and lacked death penalty. In those days world was not overpopulated because we were a viable species capable of controlling our reproduction in accordance with the resources available. But some males resented the fact that females had the power to decide when and with whom to have sex. Males who raped violated social norms of matriarchal societies because in showing disrespect for females they showed disrespect for their mothers and for life itself as females are bearers of life.

    But without a death penalty the early matriarchies could do no more than exile social deviants and it was inevitable that males with testosterone poisoning and no respect for life would band together to form the earliest patriarchal societies. It was easy for these exiled criminals to attack small, peaceful villages and kill the inhabitants except for a few young women they could easily dominate. Of course within a few generations these new villages overpopulated and had to usurp the resources of other villages.

    But what could be easier for bands of murderers than to massacre pacifists who relied on reason rather than on force to solve social problems? Patriarchal societies cannot and must not be called civilizations. The rule of force, militarism, might makes right, survival of the fittest, dog eat dog, etc. , are the laws of the jungle, not the laws of civilized peoples. There is no such thing as a warlike civilization. The prohibition on taking life that was part of early matriarchal societies failed to take into account that it is sometimes necessary to take life in order to save life.

    We kill viruses, bacteria, and cancer cells, when possible, in order to save the human or animal lives they are attacking. Malignant and aggressive diseases are also examples of patriarchies because their primary purpose is to reproduce without limit, even when doing so is suicidal in the end. Only matriarchal societies, that is, those in which those who do the reproducing have control over reproduction, are viable in the ecological sense that they do not overpopulate and need not resort to Malthusian means of population control.

    Reproduction is a miracle in moderation and a fatal disease when uncontrolled. The patriarchal antipathy towards abortion is also interesting because there has never been and will never be a female who wanted an abortion. Can you imagine a female learning that some uncomfortable and potentially dangerous procedure existed to terminate pregnancy, saying, “Oh, wow, that sounds great! I want one of those! I’m going to go out and get pregnant so I can get one! ” Not likely, is it? Women only begin to resent children when children are forced on them or when they lack the resources to care for them properly.

    The history of patriarchy has long lists of so-called great men who were in reality no more than genocidal maniacs. When a society is led by such people things like the Holocaust can become a social norm. Now, only 50 years later, we have reached another overpopulation peak and are beginning the die-off phase. Where the norm after WWII was for people to pray that such mass slaughter would never occur again, the norm today, in a world whose population has more than doubled, is to give genocides a brief mention in the evening news and ignore them.

    Life in a patriarchy becomes cheap with monotonous regularity as we overpopulate, die off, overpopulate, die off, and appear to lack the intelligence of some 1-celled brainless creatures to end the cycles of violent insanity by empowering females. Forced, unplanned and unwanted pregnancies are only normal in patriarchal societies. In egalitarian societies females would only strive to make a sexually attractive appearance when they were seeking sex, and then only with particular individual partners rather than the male population at large.

    So long as patriarchy makes sexual objectification a social norm for females but not for males, equality is impossible. The employer who wants a female employee to make a sexually attractive, rather than simply a neat and clean appearance, should have to prove that it is a bona fide and work-related requirement, list it in the job description as such, and pay the prevailing rates for sex workers on top of the usual salary. Any employer who sends a female for psychological counseling for failure to act in a sufficiently feminine manner should be deemed guilty of sexual harassment and discrimination.

    When employees are treated equitably, without regard to sex, there is no need to enforce social norms. Women being subject to atrocities and ways with which it has been countered. The Conflict of Women in 20th Century India throughout recorded history, women the world over have been held to different standards than men. They have been consistently oppressed in nearly all aspects of life, from political to personal, public to private. In the 20th century, great strides have been taken to end this oppression and level the playing field.

    In India however, a number of deeply rooted traditions have made this effort particularly difficult, and as a result, women’s triumphs over oppression in India are all the more intriguing. To understand the position women found themselves in at the dawn of the 20th century, one must have a general understanding of the numerous historical women’s conflicts unique to the Subcontinent. It took the overwhelming success of Gandhi’s nonviolent revolution to unite women politically and create an atmosphere whereby women, empowered by the times, could take a stand for their equality.

    The 1970’s saw the beginning of a highly organized modern women’s movement in India. Violence against women was one of the main focuses of the movement. Harassment, wife-beating, rape, and dowry deaths were all too common, and police enforcement was ineffective as were most attempts at prosecution. Commonly called atrocities against women, these acts occurred frequently. Why then, if these events were happening so often, was there so much apathy towards them on the part of the courts and the police?

    To answer this question one must look back upon a history marked by religiously and culturally accepted forms of oppression such as female infanticide, polygamy, purdah and sati. pradah, still practiced today in many Moslem societies, is the practice of covering a women in cloth to protect them from the gaze of non-family males, in order to maintain their purity. This practice became common in India in the days of the sultanate. From a traditional western perspective this is a very repressive requirement.

    Gandhi took a particular pleasure in bringing women out of purdah, and involving them in the political movements of the times. Sati is another story. Early British rule in India was careful to stay out of the traditions and private lives of the natives. They ruled indirectly, typically demanding monetary tribute from local leaders in exchange for allowing them to rule as they pleased. This philosophy changed dramatically under the governor-generalship of Lord William Cavendish Bentinck which began in 1828.

    He began a much more interventionist policy that included the an increase in transportation facilities, industrialized cloth production (which displaced the ancient commercial structure) and he abolished the ancient tradition of sati (female infanticide was also outlawed by the British). The last of which caused a great rift in India’s intellectuals and businessmen. Sati is an ancient Hindu tradition whereby a widow is burned in the cremation fire of her departed husband. This practice was abhorred by British missionaries and businessmen.

    However, to many of India’s intellectuals it was an act of bravery and dedication on the part of the widow, to be admired. This is evidenced by the first petition against the intervention, which stated, Hindu widows perform (sati), of their own accord and pleasure, and for the benefit of their Husbands’ souls and for their own, the sacrifice of self-immolation called Suttee (another spelling of sati)- which is not merely a sacred duty but a high privilege (Stein, p. 222). For those who did not take part in this practice, the life of a Hindu widow was a very restricted one.

    A census conducted in 1881 showed that one-fifth of all women were widows, so these restrictions were very important. The Dharmashashra of Manu (a Hindu text) talks about how a Brahmin widow should act stating, … but she may never mention the name of another man after her husband has died. (Stein, p. 94) As child brides were common in the Subcontinent, one often saw young widows unable by traditional law to remarry and make an attempt at a new life. Furthermore, they rarely had the education to support themselves.

    Education was historically bestowed solely upon the males. In the 19th century only the wealthiest of families sought after any sort of formal education for their female children, and there was no movement in the government to change this. A survey of Madras found over 5000 girls enrolled in Indian language schools, as against 179,000 boys(Stein p. 268). This lack of concern for the formal education of women exemplifies how their place in society was viewed. The treatment of high cast women was one of the first forms of oppression attacked by advocates of women’s rights.

    In the 1860’s action was taken by avid social reformer Madhav Govinda Ranade, who founded the Widow Re-marriage Association and the Deccan Education Society (which sought to increase young women’s educational facilities). Although Ranade challenged some of traditions that prevented the liberation of women, he was seen by many as a hypocrite, himself taking on a child bride after the death of his wife. Soon however women would take the reins in the battle for their own independence. A woman by the name of Ramabia is considered, the first Indian Feminist to address other women directly about emancipation (Stein, p. 75). She, like Ranade, was a member of the Brahman caste. She would go on to travel and study in England and later in America, where she wrote about the mistreatment of women in India. A converted Christian upon her return to India, Ramabia opened schools for high caste women. This effort, in conjunction with various projects Ramabia worked on for women, was far ahead of its time and it would take nearly a century before women would tightly bind together to formally resist oppression.

    Early in the 20th century women were forbidden to protest their condition or even to congregate to discuss the matter. This was a right even the lowest cast males, the untouchables, was bestowed. It was a common belief at the time, that free women would inevitably come to neglect their marital responsibilities. The Indian National Congress, led by Gandhi, was one of the first political organizations to actively include woman, even women formally in Purdah.

    Although these women mobilized formally in the name of nationalism, it was this extensive political activity that would become a catalyst for future self conscious feminism (a school of thought that was looked upon with great caution and fear). In 1917 the congress demanded that women be able to vote on the same basis as men, but these efforts to were for the progress of nationalism rather than exclusively for the improvement of women’s rights. The eventual partition and independence of India was seen as a tremendous success for passive resistance and the Gandhian way.

    In the decades to come a number of political movements would emerge that would utilize various forms of civil disobedience as their main form of protest. There was intense and organized women’s participation in these movements, as a result of their participation in the independence movement there was a clear precedent for this. In the 1960’s India saw the effects of dramatically improved agricultural techniques resulting from the new technology of the ‘Green Revolution’. However, these benefits did not come without a cost.

    Although food was more plentiful, farmers not wealthy enough to keep up with the technology got left in the dust. As a result women toiling on the land found themselves worse off than ever before. There were also severe environmental implications of the sudden and extensive use of technology. In response a number of movements emerged. Within these movements (such as the Marxist, the Farmers, and the Environmental movements) unified groups of women emerged and took on unprecedented responsibility. They actively and enthusiastically sought after redistribution of land and wages.

    The first group to cross over and actively seek out women’s liberation was an organization of new Marxists called Magowa. Starting in Maharashtra, which would become the center for liberation activity, they wrote their second publication on the, varied facets of women’s oppression in India(Omvedt p. 76). The population base of this movement was the rural and the toiling. This was important because the women of this group were already organized, although not all of these organizations with this base turned their focus toward feminist causes. 974 was a pivotal year for the movement. Not only did it see the founding of POW (the Progressive Organization of Women), but it was the year that the official Status of Women Commission published their report, Towards Equality, on women’s low and ever decreasing status in Indian society. This paper would add much fuel to the impending fire and validate it to the mainstream population. There were large conferences in Pune and Trivandrum in 1975 on women’s issues further bringing the movement into the mainstream. Many autonomous groups popped up with different agendas and issues.

    Some of the common issues included; the division of housework, party politics, rape, and dowry deaths. The issues of violence, popularly called atrocities against women became the centerpiece of the movement in the early eighties and the cause for its expansion. A forum against rape in Bombay led to the creation of the Forum Against Atrocities on Women, or the FAOW. All over India these feminist groups were emerging. There constituencies came to included women from all walks of life No longer did women simply motivate toward third party objectives, they now fought for their own rights as the largest oppressed group in the nation.

    From an unanswerable and most often unaddressed problem in the 1800’s, to a hotly contested issue on the cutting edge of politics in modern times, the conflict over women’s rights in India has come full circle in one century. Although feminist sentiments existed throughout, it took active female inclusion in the political world by Gandhi’s independence movement to give their voices strength and to eventually have them heard. There was avid political activity on the part of women and female organizations leading up to the 1947 split.

    The effectiveness of this work foreshadowed the influence women could have on politics when working together, and paved the way for the modern women’s movement that began in the 1970’s. Unfortunately, even at the end of the eighties atrocities against women were still occurring and they continue to occur today, but the change in attitude and the end of apathy that has emerged over the last century surely gives promise that someday there could truly be equality for women in India, and the world over.

    The targeting of women in the Gujarat carnage calls for a sectoral investigation into how women in particular have been affected. The evidence of the role played by the police and other state institutions in protecting women under the new elements in the current spate of communal violence of Gujarat, determine the role of organizations like the VHP and Bhajrang Dal in both- the build up of to the current carnage as well as in actually unleashing the violence. In many ways women have been the central characters in the Gujarat

    The Conflict of Legal Norms and Social Norms. (2017, Feb 04). Retrieved from

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